The Pocket Detective, a puzzle book featuring a host of criminally good challenges intended to exercise crime fiction fans’ little grey cells, was a somewhat surprising though certainly apt and extremely well-received addition to the British Library’s Crime Classics series when it was published last year. The book represents a charming, intriguing and admirably portable test of readers’ puzzle-solving mettle, and it’s great to see that this more participatory strand of the Crime Classics series has now been joined by an equally brain-taxing sequel.

In The Pocket Detective 2, Kate Jackson has put together over 100 more perplexing puzzles, brainteasers and conundrums for mystery buffs to tackle. She has added brand new puzzle styles to the collection and updated the source material to include the latest titles in the Crime Classics series. As with the first volume, among the best of the collected puzzles are the crosswords, which makes sense really given that the huge popularity of whodunits (that is, crime fiction featuring a puzzle that readers could actually try to solve alongside the featured detective) during the 1920s and 1930s coincided with the growth in popularity of newspaper crossword puzzles. In The Pocket Detective 2, the crosswords are themed around particular crime novels, for example, The 12:30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts, the clues for which include “Aloysius Parker and Charles Carson both held the same job (6)” and “Location of Miss Marple’s tenth case (5)”. Be warned though: half of the answers need to be written into the grid backwards!

In addition to the crosswords, Jackson has also included in The Pocket Detective 2 crime-themed word searches, word wheels, word jumbles, A-Z jigsaws, title blurbs, and “Which Book Am I From?” multiple-choice quizzes. There are puzzles in which readers have to determine the odd one out (for example, from amongst Smallbone DeceasedThe Christmas EggMurder in Piccadilly, and It Walks By Night) as well as puzzles where it is necessary to determine the order in which murder victims were killed or where book titles must be matched to their opening lines. There are also spot the difference puzzles featuring the covers of certain books from the Crime Classics series as well as cover snapshots from which readers must identify the relevant novels.

Similar to the first volume, some puzzles focus on Golden Age crime novels/authors in general (such as the “Order, Order!” puzzle in which readers must place various Christmas-themed mysteries in chronological order), while others focus on a specific title or writer (for instance, there’s a word search dedicated to the stories contained in The Christmas Card Crime). In short, Jackson has once again managed to compile a puzzle collection that has something for everyone, whatever their age, ability and knowledge of classic crime. The puzzles both entertain and inform, which can be a tricky balance to achieve. Just as important, as with the best whodunits, is the fact that readers can rest assured that everything will be wrapped up nicely in the end, since The Pocket Detective 2 also includes the solutions to all the featured puzzles.

The Pocket Detective 2 is perfect for puzzle-loving fans of vintage crime in general and the British Library’s Crime Classics series in particular. Along with the original The Puzzle Detective and Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, it makes a great non-fiction addition to the Crime Classics series and serves as another fitting tribute to the intricacy of the puzzles that underpin the plots of so many novels from the Golden Age of Crime.

Erin Britton 5*

The Pocket Detective 2 compiled by Kate Jackson
British Library Publishing 9780712353151 pbk Sep 2019